Simple steps to build your own terrarium (2023)

Terrariums, sometimes referred to as "gardens under glass," make wonderful and impressive gifts, even for people who consider themselves a plant challenge. Regardless of the size of the terrarium, it will have four levels including gravel, moss, soil and plants.

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is an indoor garden container that contains plants. It is usually made of glass that is fully or partially closed to let in heat and light and seal in moisture. The term "terrarium" is made up of the Latin words "terra" (earth) plus "arium" (place or vessel).

There are many purposes for a terrarium. They can only be created for decoration, scientific observation or plant propagation. You can assemble a simple terrarium in an hour or two with very few inexpensive materials, including many types of glass containers that make beautiful DIY terrarium containers. The adorable miniature terrarium plants usually only cost a few dollars. If you're interested in building a terrarium, read on to learn how to build or buy your own and how to choose and care for plants.

before it begins

Larger terrariums can handle slightly larger houseplants, but avoid fast-growing species or those with large leaves that can block the light needed by smaller plants. When considering terrarium plants, look for plants that thrive in low to medium light. Choose a mix of leaf sizes, textures, and colors for visual appeal.

Select plants that don't mind the naturally humid environment of a terrarium. Avoid cacti and succulents in an enclosed terrarium - these plants do best in fully open containers filled with potting soil that contains a lot of coarse sand.

Here are some examples of plant species that will do well in a terrarium:

  • african violet
  • Pothos (commonly known as Devil's Vine)
  • polka dot plant
  • little Fern
  • lucky bamboo
  • nerve plant
  • prayer plant
  • Moos
  • creeping fig


Click play to learn how to build a simple terrarium

  • The best gardening tools of 2023 that every gardener should have
  • The 15 best terrarium plants for easy-care green Read now
  • The Best Trowels For All-Purpose GardeningRead Now

what will you need

equipment / tools

  • Large spoon or garden trowel
  • Small garden clippings or scissors for pruning plant roots
  • spray bottle


  • Glass containers without drainage holes, with or without a lid
  • Clean aquarium gravel or a small crushed stone
  • Activated charcoal (available at day care centers or pet stores)
  • terrarium plants
  • Sterile potting soil
  • Moosblatt
  • Decoration elements (optional)
(Video) How To Make a Terrarium - A SIMPLE Beginner Guide



  1. choose a container

    Choosing the container and plants is half the fun of terrarium building. There are many specialized terrarium containers that you can buy, even some that look like miniature Victorian-style greenhouses or conservatories that sell for hundreds of dollars.

    But you can use almost any clear container (glass or plastic) with a wide opening (with or without a lid) to create a terrarium. Suitable containers include aquariums, goldfish bowls, Wardian cases, cold frames, bell jars, tureens, apothecary jars, cloches,mason jars, glass cookie jars and even large brandy flutes. A wide opening allows you to put your hand inside the container to add drainage material, soil, plants and decorative elements (shells, figures or ornaments).


    Open terrariums arehave less problemsfor condensation water and fungal plant diseases as closed terrariums.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (5)

  2. Select the plants

    Most garden centers will stock miniature terrarium plants, sometimes in the store's section that includes fairy garden accessories. Chooseterrarium plantswith various leaf shapes and heights small enough to fit in its container, preferably without touching the sides of the terrarium.

    (Video) Make an AWESOME Terrarium for FREE!

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (6)

  3. Add drainage layers

    A terrarium container does not have drainage holes, so you need to create a drainage layer to keep water away from the roots of the plant. Start with a 2 inch layer of gravel or crushed stone at the bottom of the terrarium. A tall, narrow terrarium will need a deeper layer of drainage rocks than a wide, shallow container.

    Then use a large spoon or spatula to spread a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of activated charcoal over the stones to aid drainage and control odors.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (7)

  4. Add moss and potting soil

    Then add a layerMoosblattover the rocks and charcoal to keep the next layer, the potting soil, from mixing. Moss also adds visual interest to your terrarium.

    Using a large spoon or small trowel, spread sterile, slightly damp soil over the moss. Do not use potting mix with fertilizer already incorporated; Terrarium plants do not need any additional fertilizer.

    Add as much soil mix as you can—at least a few inches. Be sure to keep the soil low enough to allow the plants to fit in the container and have room to grow, but not touch the top of an enclosed terrarium.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (8)

  5. Prepare the plants

    Decide on your terrarium design before planting. Choose the places where you place tall and low plants and where you create hills and depressions in the ground to create interesting contours.

    Remove the plants from their nursery pots.When a plant is rooted, separate the roots or use some small garden scraps to trim some of the longer roots. Removing some of the roots, called root pruning, slows a plant's growth, which is essential when growing plants in a terrarium. Also cut off any yellowed or damaged leaves.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (9)

  6. add plants

    Shake off excess soil from the plants. Use a long spoon or your fingers to dig a planting hole for each plant. Place each plant in its hole and gently tap the soil to eliminate air pockets and firmly secure each plant to the potting soil.


    If the terrarium has a narrow opening, use chopsticks, tweezers, or long tongs to place the plants in the terrarium and pet them. Taking a tip from Tovah Martin's book The New Terrarium, place a cork on the end of a skewer or chopstick to compact the soil.

    (Video) Making a Bottle Terrarium + Closed Terrarium Basics

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (10)

  7. Decorate

    If you wish, decorate the interior of the terrarium with small figurines, shells, decorative stones or other whimsical details interspersed among the plants.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (11)

  8. water the terrarium

    Use a spray bottle or small watering can with a rose attachment in the spout to water the plants so that they are just damp but not soggy. Use the spray bottle to wipe off any dirt stuck to the glass walls of the container, which you can wipe off with newspaper or a paper towel.


    Never use glass cleaner in a planted terrarium as this can harm the plants.

    Simple steps to build your own terrarium (12)

  9. hold the plants

    Most terrariums work best in a spot that gets plenty of filtered light, but not in direct sunlight, where the terrarium can get hot enough to roast the plants inside. Slightly shaded south-facing windows are ideal. If you don't have enough filtered natural sunlight - because your house is surrounded by deciduous trees, for example - artificial grow lights will help your plants thrive. Artificial LED or fluorescent lights typically don't generate much heat, so your plants get as much light as they need to thrive.

    Maintaining a terrarium is easy. Do these three tasks every few weeks:

    • Feel the soil to see if it is dry and needs water. Partially and fully enclosed terrariums hold water longer than most potted plants.
    • Check an enclosed terrarium for condensation. Remove the lid at least once a month to increase airflow. Leave the lid open until the condensation disappears. Also remove the terrarium lid if you have added too much water.
    • Remove any yellowed or damaged leaves and cut the plants smaller if they get too big for the container.

    Never fertilize plants in the terrarium. Terrariums provide their own nutrients through the natural breakdown of the potting soil.


1. How To Make A Terrarium - ULTIMATE Beginners Guide
(Terrarium Designs)
2. Make Your Own Terrarium at Home! (An Easy Step-By-Step Guide for All Ages)
(Countryside Education Trust)
3. How to Create a Closed Native Terrarium | Ecosystem in a Jar
(Natural World Facts)
4. How to make a closed terrarium and basic care | easy tutorial
5. EASY DIY glass terrarium | Step by Step Guide to Make a Terrarium at home
(Anna's Violets)
6. How to Make A Terrarium (Full Version) // Garden Answer
(Garden Answer)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Last Updated: 06/23/2023

Views: 5452

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Birthday: 1992-08-21

Address: Apt. 237 662 Haag Mills, East Verenaport, MO 57071-5493

Phone: +331850833384

Job: District Real-Estate Architect

Hobby: Skateboarding, Taxidermy, Air sports, Painting, Knife making, Letterboxing, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Saturnina Altenwerth DVM, I am a witty, perfect, combative, beautiful, determined, fancy, determined person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.